Feds launch investigation of jail’s care of deaf inmates

Summarized by Rachel Cain, staff writer

The United States Justice Department began an investigation in April regarding the Arlington County Jail’s treatment of deaf inmates and the court documents were released last week. The investigation is a result of a complaint filed by an inmate that the jail violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by denying him access to a sign language interpreter. Abreham Zemedagegehu, a native of Ethiopia, is fluent in American Sign Language but not in written English. Arlington County Jail provided a teletypewriter for him, but he claims that such a device is unhelpful for people like him who cannot read English and that most members of the deaf community prefer videophones. However, the sheriff’s office stands by its decision to use a teletypewriter. Zemedagegehu says he spent a portion of his time in jail before being informed of the charges against him. Additionally, he claims the jail gave him medical procedures without his consent or explaining the procedure. Zemedagegehu pleaded guilty to the charges against him that he stole an iPad in order to have his jail term shortened. However, the charges were later dropped.

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